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3 Tips for the Newbie Midlife Entrepreneur

How to use the best marketing tool in the world


Part of the America’s Entrepreneurs Special Report

Starting a business in midlife can be overwhelming. Entrepreneurs in their 50s and 60s are often advised to invest the hours and energy of someone in their 20s. But they don’t have to.

That’s because many of them approach beginning a business with finances and personal lives that are in good shape, unlike when they were younger. What’s more, they often have a willingness to assess their strengths and weaknesses that didn’t exist earlier.

That said, as someone who became a consultant and freelancer after decades as a New York City radio reporter, anchor and Broadway reviewer, I’ve learned three tips newbie entrepreneurs over 50 might want to know:

1. Decide how much of a commitment you are ready to make. I realized that I wanted to continue working, enjoyed being able to set my own hours and was looking for something that didn’t demand a huge investment of time or money. That led me to coaching and writing.

If you Google variations on those occupations, you’ll find that only a small percentage of people in either make big bucks. But the combination seemed perfect for me because of my background.

Whatever business dream you have, research what you’d need to make it happen — what training would be necessary, how much seed money would be required and so on.

2. Keep in mind: the only time you’ll ever have is right now. When we’re young, we think we’ll live forever. The midlife reevaluation is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reset.

Look at your expertise and come up with ways to build on it. And don’t be afraid to let your vision include the possibility of exploring doing something you don’t know.

3. The marketing you’ll do for your business has to be worth your time. When I let go of the 9-to-5 world, I printed up a business card, created a website and dove into social media. I’ve found you need an online presence, but you don’t have to live there.

Setting up a website these days is a snap. Code isn’t necessary, nor is hiring a design expert. Sites like Bluehost and Web.com make the process painless and inexpensive.

You’re probably already on Facebook; start taking it seriously. Only post when you have some value to add. Unfollow anyone who wastes the space with endless pix of his or her pets (unless your business has something to do with pets, of course).

Sign up for LinkedIn and Twitter if you haven’t already. But remember that these — and Instagram and Snapchat — are tools. You don’t swing a hammer every day just to use it; you pick it up when you need it.

The single most important “marketing” I’ve done is to tell others what I’m doing. This is the marketing tool most hopeful entrepreneurs in midlife ignore.

You know how people are always asking what you do? Your response is an opportunity to share without selling. At parties, political gatherings and anywhere else you go where people meet up, don’t be shy about discussing your new adventure.

When you do, place your future in the present: Instead of saying, “I’m hoping to start…” say, “I have my own small business. Here’s what I do…” As you put your dream into the real world, you’ll find that this method of marketing is remarkably effective.

By Leida Snow
Leida Snow is a writer and communications coach who has been an award-winning broadcast producer, theater critic and event producer.

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